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Monday, January 21, 2008

First rule for ISPs: keep it simple (please)

Here's something I'd like New Zealand's ISPs to read. It's a list of suggestions made by Silicon Alley Insider in response to the news that some US cable companies are moving to user-consumption billing (more you use, more you pay). Here's a couple to be getting on with:

Make things simple. Don't have 50 pricing plans. Try three: Big, bigger, biggest. And don't nickel-and-dime people like the cellphone companies do - don't bill people for minor or accidental overages.

Absolutely. Please, enough with the 15 complicated packages all tangled up with phone services that no one can understand (and get rid of those nonsense 1Gb packages that are of no use to anyone). Small, medium and really big will do fine. Clear charges. No throttling (this punishes your customers = bad idea).

Be straight with your customers: Don't try to describe the switch as an anti-piracy measure, as a TWC PR person did to the Times today. It's about generating more revenue to cover increasing costs. Say so, and move on.
Announce your plans a year ahead of time. Or two. Give people the right tools and enough time to figure out how much bandwidth they use each month, how to prevent neighbors from stealing bandwidth via open wi-fi routers, how to download more efficiently, and how much they'll have to pay for what kind of access. Put ads in the papers. Call customers. Stop by and show them how to put a password on their wi-fi router. But don't let a single customer go unprepared - or get ready for the lawyers/angry mobs/FCC.
Again, right on. Help your customers understand their usage (start by not throttling them or charging them daft overage charges when they estimate it wrong). Get out there, talk to them, use live chat helpdesks. Be nice. But most of all be accessible and transparent.